Dr. Christopher Dyer Saudek, founder and director of the Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Diabetes Center and a pioneer in the development of the implantable insulin pump, died Wednesday of metastatic melanoma at his Lutherville home.
He was 68.
"We have lost one of our giants," said Dr. Edward D. Miller, dean of the faculty of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and CEO of Johns Hopkins medicine.
"He always tried to make things better for patients. I so enjoyed referring patients to him because I knew that he would not only give them great medical care but that his compassion and understanding of the human condition was unsurpassed," Dr. Miller said. "Chris was the best Hopkins had to offer"
"His death is a huge loss to Hopkins and to medicine in the U.S. and beyond. He was a gentle and caring soul and an absolutely gorgeous human being," said Ronald J. Daniels, president of Johns Hopkins University, who was also a patient of Dr. Saudek.
"He was a very compassionate and passionate individual who exemplified the best of his breed, and contributed greatly to improving the quality of the lives of his patients," Mr. Daniels said.
Dr. Saudek, the son of Robert Saudek, creator in the early 1950s of the critically acclaimed television series "Omnibus," was born and raised in Bronxville, N.Y. His mother, Elizabeth Saudek, who survives and lives in Bedford, Mass., was a homemaker.
After graduating from Bronxville High School in 1959, he earned his bachelor's degree from Harvard College in 1963 and his medical degree from Cornell University Medical School in 1966.
An endocrinologist, Dr. Saudek trained in internal medicine at Chicago's Presbyterian-St. Luke's Hospital and in metabolism at Harvard Medical School and Boston City Hospital.
He also served as a reservist in the Navy.
Dr. Saudek taught at Cornell Medical School for eight years and was a fellow at the National Institutes of Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation before arriving at Hopkins in 1980.
His groundbreaking research and work led to the development of an implantable insulin pump, which enabled a diabetic to get the right dose of insulin without having to use injections. In 1984, Dr. Saudek established the Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Diabetes Center,
Dr. Saudek wrote widely on the topic of diabetes, and it was his dream to create what essentially would be an artificial pancreas: an insulin pump implanted in the body that would measure a diabetic's blood glucose and deliver the correct insulin dosage for maintaining blood sugar at a constant level.
His insulin pump went beyond the external pumps that are attached to a catheter inside the body and are used to aid in injecting insulin. He envisioned a time when diabetics would no longer have to prick their fingers many times a day to test blood sugar or give themselves injections of insulin.
His work in developing the Programmable Implantable Medication System — or PIMS — which was about the size of a hockey puck, made it possible for diabetics to live without daily insulin shots.
In 1980, F. Jackson Piotrow, an American University professor from Bethesda, was the first human being to be surgically implanted at Johns Hopkins Hospital with an insulin pump, which The Evening Sun described at the time as a "space age" development.
"It's a significant advance in the treatment of diabetes," Dr. Saudek told The Evening Sun in a 1980 interview. "Most importantly, this implantable pump has the possibility of controlling a person's blood sugar in a way that is an improvement over conventional insulin injections."
Although that device was never approved by the Food and Drug Administration, his research laid the groundwork for other advances in the field.
"His work with the insulin pump brought a great deal of recognition to Hopkins for an inventive and effective approach to a terribly difficult situation," said Dr. Myron Weisfeldt, chairman of the department of medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
Dr. Saudek traveled widely lecturing on diabetes, its complications and how to prevent it.
He was the co-author of "The Complete Diabetes Prevention Plan: A Guide to Understanding the Emerging Epidemic of Prediabetes and Halting Its Progression to Diabetes," "The Johns Hopkins Guide to Diabetes: For Today and Tomorrow," and "Diabetes."
"It's sad," Dr. Saudek said in a 1985 interview with The Baltimore Sun, referring to the fears diabetics have of the disease. "There's so much good to be found out that can be beneficial to them. The whole concept of cheating on a diet and eating bad foods is out of date. We're in an era now of trying to teach a person how to lead a good life."
"When I came to Hopkins a year and a half ago, I was in late-stage type 1 diabetes. And the name at the top of the list of a physician to see in Philadelphia or Baltimore was Chris Saudek," recalled Mr. Daniels.
"It is a daunting challenge and a consuming task to manage what he called 'high sugars,' but he showed me how to do it through a discipline of diet and exercise. He brought a perspective to it," Mr. Daniels said. "He was a wonderful human being."
Dr. Miller, who had been a friend of Dr. Saudek's since 1995, said he was a "wonderful person to work with.'
"He believed in Hopkins, and the patients and staff loved him. He was passionate about improving both the care and lives of diabetics," he said. "He was a great teacher, clinician and researcher. And his work with the insulin pump was groundbreaking."
Occasionally, Dr. Saudek's work took him away from East Baltimore. In 2007, he traveled to Trinidad and Tobago, where he was the driving force behind a Johns Hopkins initiative designed to teach medical professionals in that country — where an estimated 20 percent of the population suffers from diabetes — how to improve care for diabetic patients and recognize potential complications early enough to do something about them.
Dr. Saudek was also the Hugh P. McCormick Professor of Endocrinology and Metabolism in the Hopkins medical school, as well as a member of the faculty of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
For more than two decades, Dr. Saudek was program director of the Johns Hopkins General Clinical Research Center, funded by the National Institutes of Health to support clinical investigation.
He was also an ABC News consultant for "OnCall + Diabetes Center."
One of Dr. Saudek's hobbies was collecting street remedies, gathered during his international travels and prominently displayed in his Hopkins office for the amusement and edification of visitors.
"One typically dubious bottle of brown herbs and oil that he placed in the front promised to 'cure diabetes, cholesterol, and children who urinate in their beds,'" said a son, Mark S. Saudek of Wiltondale.
Dr. Saudek enjoyed spending time and sailing at a home in Southport Island, Maine. He also liked playing his clarinet, playing squash and entertaining medical students, residents and fellows at "high-spirited" dinners at his Lutherville home, family members said.
He was an active member and elder of Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church, at 1316 Park Ave. in Baltimore, where a memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Nov. 6.
Also surviving are his wife of 44 years, the former Susan Stoeppler; another son, Anthony Saudek of Washington; two daughters, Dr. Deborah Collier of Boston and Christina Cusack of Washington; three brothers, Richard Saudek of Montpelier, Vt., Robert Saudek of Atlanta and Stephen Saudek of Lexington, Mass.; a sister, Mary Jaffee of Lexington, Mass.; and nine grandchildren.